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Kolambugan residents continue to work for “unity among Muslims and Christians”

August 21, 2019

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 21 August) – Eleven years after the tragedy, residents of Kolambugan town in Lanao del Norte still feel the pain but are now working “for the unity among Muslims and Christians,” Mayor Lorenzo Manegos said.  To recall, on August 17, 2008, a few days after the Supreme Court stopped the August 5 signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) by government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), four soldiers and three militiamen were killed in an ambush of a four-vehicle Army convoy by suspected MILF members in Mulondo, Lanao del Sur. Eleven others were wounded.  The convoy was moving along the highway in Mulondo at around 8 a.m. on their way to deliver cash allowances to militiamen in neighboring Lumba-Bayabao town. They were fired upon by around 100 armed men who were positioned on higher ground, Brigadier General Hilario Atendido, chief of the 102nd Infantry Brigade, said.  On August 18, 2008, the MILF led by Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo attacked the coastal villages of Tacub and Libertad in Kauswagan and Kolambugan towns, leaving a number of civilians dead and sending thousands of evacuees to neighboring cities of Ozamiz and Iligan. In Kolambugan alone, 14 civilians and a military officer were killed while 60 were taken hostage and later released in Tangkal town as the MILF was retreating. Mayor Manegos, who was vice mayor during the Kolambugan siege, acknowledged that it pains them to remember what happened, “apan ang nangagi nga kasaysayan isipon nga usa ka pag-tulun-an ang nahitabo ug mag padayon ang kahiusahan sa Muslim ug Christian sa Kolambugan” (but let us learn lessons from the past and let us continue working for unity among Muslims and Christians in Kolambugan). “Nag tuo kami nga diha sa interfaith dialogue masulbad ang suliran sa komunidad ug ma kab-ot ang kahusay ug kalinaw and lig-on nga relasyon” (we believe that through interfaith dialogue, we can solve the problems in the community and we will achieve justice and peace and strengthen our relationship), the mayor said in an interview after the mass.  He said every first Friday of the month, Muslim and Christian religious leaders meet to discuss the situation in the community and to resolve whatever problems there may be.  He said they believe that the success of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) bring about lasting peace in the area Commemoration  In the mass to commemorate the tragedy on Sunday morning, Father Abet de Lara, parish priest of Kolambugan, said they are offering prayers for those who died in 2008 and for lasting peace and unity among Muslims and Christians in Kolambugan.  The priest read the names of the 15 civilians and a military officer who were killed and the damages to property during the siege.  He said the parish teamed up with the local government unit and joined their Muslim brothers and sisters in celebrating Eid’l Fitr, the end of Ramadan.  “Hand in hand, we shared with the people the value of forgiveness, peace, acceptance and unity,” the priest said.  For Melanie Avelis, barangay chair of Tacub in Kauswagan, “amo nang gidawat ang nahitabo ug dili mi gusto nga dumdumon pa ang nangaging hitabo ug ipadayun namo ang kalambuan sa Tacub” (we have accepted what happened but we do not want to remember what happened but we will work for the progress of Tacub). Tacub and Libertad are the recipient communities of a 552-megawatt coal-fired power plant which is expected to provide direct socio-economic benefits to the community.  The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is preparing for the decommissioning of MILF combatants under the normalization track, which includes alternative livelihood opportunities for MILF community members. Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., and military officials joined the MILF’s Abdullah Macapaar, now member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, during the celebration of Eid'l Adha on August 12 in Camp Bilal in Tamparan, Munai, Lanao del Norte. (Richel V. Umel / MindaNews)

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Davao entrepreneur plans to export 18,000 coconuts daily to China

August 21, 2019

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 Aug) – The Filipino-Chinese entrepreneur who owns the Davao City-based Eng Seng Food Products targets to increase the export volume of young coconuts to China to at least 18,000 daily starting this October following the successful initial shipments last July.  Eng Seng Food Products President John Tan said in an interview that his company, currently exporting 18,000 nuts weekly, had already made three shipments to China since the last week of July.  He added that they are receiving inquiries from farmers from different parts of the region who are interested to participate in the export of young coconuts to China as suppliers.  He urged Mindanawon farmers to produce export quality coconuts to improve their livelihood to seize the huge market opportunity in China. “We want to help Mindanao and the farmers. I can see that they are poor. Some are not happy and abandon their farms,” Tan said. He said they target to explore other parts of Mindanao, including the cities of Kidapawan, General Santos, Surigao, and Zamboanga, to meet the target export volume. In July, Eng Seng Food Products, a food manufacturer that popularized the “tower” yema and other snacks, shipped 48 tons or equivalent to 36,000 pieces of aromatic coconuts to Guangzhou and Xiamen, after the Philippines complied with the export protocol allowing the entry of coconuts from Mindanao and Leyte province to China. Duterte witnessed the contract signing between the local company and its counterpart China Artex Corporation Fujian Company during the 2nd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing last April for one-year exportation of 64.5 million metric tons of young coconuts. Tan said one case of nine coconuts can sell for $7 in China or P366.45 (at P52.35 per $1) or P40.71 per nut. Tan added that his firm is willing to accept all varieties from different regions of Mindanao for as long as they meet the standards of the Chinese who prefer sweet coconut. He said they are investing in machines to improve the packaging and upgrade their plant in Calinan to increase its production capacity. Around 250 workers are employed at the company’s processing facility in Calinan. “The taste was good but we have not perfected yet the packaging unlike in Thailand where they are already so used to it. We are still practicing on the proper way of removing the husk,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)

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What to do with crooked BARMM officials taking cuts from 4Ps beneficiaries: ‘Slap them!’

August 21, 2019

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 21 August) – “Slap them, create a scene!”  This is the advice of Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on what to do to corrupt government officials taking cuts from the payouts for beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) intended for the poorest of the poor.  Sinarimbo, during the launch of the weekly Kapihan sa Bangsamoro last Monday, echoed the message of President Rodrigo Duterte during the latter’s 4th State of the Nation Address last month, after the Ministry of Interior of Local Government of the BARMM was alarmed over reports that the resumption of the multimillion-peso 4Ps program are being used by some corrupt leaders to their advantage once again. “Pwede na nilang gawin yung sinabi ni President Duterte na sampalin nila, para meron tayong mapag-usapan, yung merong marka na pwede nating habulin at kasuhan” (They can do what President Duterte said that they can slap them, so there’s something to talk about, if possible would leave a mark so we’d know who to run after and file charges), he said. Sinarimbo said the reports they received say officials from the barangays and municipalities, with links to employees of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, are interfering in the payouts He said they will continue validating the reports and to conduct investigations to stop the practice, noting that the BARMM administration is pushing for moral governance. A video of a Lanao del Sur payout activity a few years ago went viral where the barangay chairman was caught in a footage getting cuts from the beneficiaries. The DSWD national office advised last year to stop the payouts after noting discrepancies, like bloated data of those enrolled in the 4Ps, leading to the stoppage of the program in the Bangsamoro region. This was followed by massive validation, the use biometric system, and actual house to house enumeration of every member beneficiaries. A new cleansed list is now being used by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Development (MSWD). MSWD personnel cited that in the town of Malabang in Lanao del Sur, which resumed 4Ps payouts last August 8, the number enrolled beneficiaries now number at 3,848. Before the list was cleansed, the enrollees totalled 3,900, or 52 beneficiaries more. The government thus saved P365,000. But Malabang Mayor Mohamad Macapodi complained that MSWD enumerators are not conducting house-to-house visits to validate data, doing it instead from afar. Lawyer Raissa Jajurie, MSWD head, acknowledged the need for enumerators to visit the residences of beneficiaries where they can get the real situation of the household. Her office has sought the assistance of the MILG to help them work with local officials in properly implementing the program and stop the wrongdoings of the past. In response, the MILF issued Memorandum Order No. 25, which refrains local officials from directly or indirectly interfering in the process or use the program for their political advantage. Beneficiaries in the Bangsamoro region could now get as much as P15,000 to P30,000 each because of the stoppage of the program. In Lanao del Sur, the payout coverage will be until October. Tawi-tawi, meanwhile, will have theirs starting in September. Maguindanao and Sulu will follow soon after. Noraida Lomondot, 50, a widowed grandmother and breadwinner from Barangay Macauranding in Malabang town, said there was no way she would share her 4Ps money to any local officials or anybody from the MSWD. “Why would I give share this with them? I am old and helpless; this is for the poor,” she said in the vernacular. Lomondot is raising three grandchildren, whom she said are a product of a broken family, abandoned by her jobless daughter. “I am just thankful that 4Ps came. Otherwise, I don’t know what to do,” she added. Lomondot admitted, though, that a huge part of her money from the 4Ps will be used to pay debts.. Representatives of lending companies were waiting outside the gate of the municipal hall, ready to collect their money from the beneficiaries. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)

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BARMM commemorates deadly 1976 tsunami with multi-hazard simulation drill

August 20, 2019

KUSIONG, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao  (MindaNews / 19 August) -- As the siren sounded at 7 a.m. on Saturday, August 17, exactly 43 years after the 1976 tsunami that left at least 8,000 dead and missing along the Moro Gulf, residents applied what they learned from previous disaster drills: duck, hold and cover. When the shaking stopped, hundreds of villagers flocked towards the campus grounds of  Bai Hanina Sinsuat High School, designated as evacuation site by the Bangsamoro government’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidents (Bangsamoro READi) for the multi-hazard simulation drill. A helicopter hovered, assessing the situation on the ground. Speedboats of the Philippine Navy, Coast Guard and different rescue teams rushed to a respond to a drowning scenario from a capsized boat. Minutes later, ambulances, rescuers and hospital staff arrived to rescue an estimated 50 persons representing those who were wounded in the aftermath of the magnitude 8.1 earthquake that triggered a tsunami. Forty-three years ago, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake triggered what has been referred to as the country’s “most disastrous tsunami.” BARMM Local Governments Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, who also heads the Bangsamoro READi, said the exercise was meant to look at the integration of responses from local government units to barangays. “It’s a vertical and horizontal integration,” he said. Sinarimbo said they hope to link up government offices or ministry, security sector, private sector and the communities, to include communities of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and bring in institutions which were not part of government before. Assessment Engr. Rainier Amilbahar, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in Cotabato City and the BARMM noted that an indigenous warning device of the Tedurays which was showcased during the first tsunami simulation in 2014 was not used in Saturday’s drill. He said hitting a piece of bamboo hanging in a strategic location in a Teduray’s house serves as an early warning device and the other areas have in fact followed this practice following the 2014 drill. He said the bamboo has been an effective warning device long before sirens and whistles became popular. Representatives of the Mindanao Humanitarian Team (MHT), a group of humanitarian agencies, observed that not everyone participated in the drill and cited an instance when a fish vendor was still doing business in the midst of the drill. They also pointed to poor communication signal, suggesting the need for a stronger UHF and VHF signal or satellite phone for responders. Some of the participants apparently forgot they were in a drill as they ended up looking at the helicopters hovering instead of portraying their roles. The tagging of supposed casualties also posed some problems. But there were good practices that were also observed.  Participants who acted as residents fleeing to higher ground did not forget to bring their  “go bags” which contained food, personal hygiene and emergency kit, diaper, napkin, water, personal documents like birth certificate and passports. Observers lauded the spacious evacuation site where areas for the evacuees and those needing treatment were delineated, and the immediate conduct of psycho-social activities for the children. Responders who had no stretchers but made improvised ones to carry their patients to the treatment area were praised for their ingenuity.. 1976 tsunami survivors Ricardo Fering, 81 and his wife, Lourdes, 80 could still vividly recall when a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck shortly after midnight on August 17, 1976, triggering a tsunami. The couple at that time lived in Minandar, an uphill village fronting the Kusiong village and the seashore. “Our hut was like a hammock in full swing,” Ricardo recalled. By daylight,  he  attempted to go to Cotabato. As he walked, he saw dead fish scattered on the ground along with dead persons. Lilia Suban, 67, a resident also of Mindanar, said shortly after they were jolted by the quake, they heard “a loud rumbling of rocks… it was like war, rocks falling from the hill” before the huge waves swallowed everything on its path. It took three days for the news to reach the other villages. At that time, the word ‘tsunami’ was still unheard of in these parts. It was merely referred to as “tidal wave.” Ricardo recalled that government response also took days as responders had to clear the roads of debris from the tsunami and landslides. At that time, too, there were no telephones in the area and other means of communications were cut off. Amilbahar said the Celebes fault has been consistently active since 1600. “That is why we have to be always ready,” he said. 8,000 dead About 8,000 were reported dead or missing, some 10,000 injured and an estimated 90,000 were rendered homeless, according to a 1978 report prepared for the Special Committee on Tsunami Warning System of the National Committee on Marine Sciences of the National Science and Development Board. The tsunami affected 700 kilometers of coastline bordering the Moro Gulf, affecting the coastal areas of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte,  Zamboanga del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and the cities of Cotabato, Zamboanga and Pagadian.  Maguindanao posted the highest number of dead and missing, followed by Lanao del Sur. Ninety five per cent of the casualties were due to the tsunami, the report said. The waves ranged from 4.3 meters (14 feet) to nine meters (29 feet). Waves were reported to be higher than five meters in Linek and in Kalanganan in Cotabato City, Pagadian City, Sacol Island in Zamboanga City. In Lebal, Sultan Kudarat, “waves may have been as high as nine meters,” the report added.  (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)

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Oro officials join anti-dengue drive

August 20, 2019

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/20 August) — Local officials down to the barangay level have been mobilized to counter the spread of dengue fever which has widely spread in 10 barangays of the city. City Councilor Maria Lourdes Gaane, a physician who chairs the Sanggunian Panlungsod health committee said the local government is launching “Oplan Kontra Dengue” to get rid of the breeding ground of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species that carries the dengue virus. Gaane said all local officials down to the barangay level will be out on the streets to clean drainage canals and other possible breeding grounds of the mosquitoes. “It will be an all-out war today. We will fog the drainage canals and clean the schools today,” she said. This came after 184 more dengue patients were rushed to various hospitals over the weekend, doctors said. These included children from middle-class families. Dr. Ramon Nery, chief of the government-run JR Borja General Hospital said this raised the number of afflicted residents to 1,964 from 1,780 cases in the city last week. “We have to open more wards to accommodate the patients this week. Other hospitals  in the city have opened more rooms too,” Nery said. Cagayan de Oro ranks as one of the areas in Region 10 with the highest incidence of dengue cases. The City Health office reported 15 deaths from January to August 16 this year. Eight deaths happened between July and August. City Health Officer Dr. Fe Bongcas said the10 barangays with the highest dengue incidence are Canitoan, Lumbia, Balulang, Lapasan, Patag, Iponan, Bugo, Bulua, Macabalan and Macasandig. Nery said many of those afflicted with dengue came from the clusters of houses or middle-class neighborhoods families not the urban poor. He said many children got bitten by the mosquitos in schools. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)

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Peasant leader shot dead in NorthCot

August 20, 2019

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/20 August) – Unidentified assailants gunned down a known leader of a progressive farmers’ organization in Matalam, North Cotabato, around 8:30 p.m. on Monday. Authorities identified the victim as Medardo Espina Barro, a.k.a. Dodong, a resident of Sitio Natipakan, Barangay Latagan in Matalam. Reports said Barro was drinking with friends and relatives outside his house when two men, one of them armed with an M4 Armalite, shot him in his head, stomach and chest. He died on the spot. Witnesses told police the attackers went straight to a black Toyota Hilux parked a few meters away from Barro’s residence after the shooting, and sped towards the town of Antipas, North Cotabato. Police recovered from the crime scene three slugs from an M4 Armalite. Some family members said Barro was active in organizing farmers in his village for the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao region. Police have yet to determine the motive for the killing. Friends from his group said Barro was among those that opposed the deployment additional soldiers in his village. (Malu Cadeliña Manar/MindaNews)

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